FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) – On Thursday, October 13, the David Salmon Tribal Hall hosted a “Strength in Unity” rally. It was a gathering of missing and murdered Native people that focused on developing partnerships between law enforcement and Alaska Native leadership. The two groups discussed their joint work and solutions that they hope will reduce the high number of missing and murdered indigenous people.
There were many speakers at the rally, which was more formal than previous rallies. Among those who took turns at the microphone were Steve Ginnis – Executive Director of the Fairbanks Mothers’ Association, Brian Ridley – Chief and Chairman of the Tanana Conference of Chiefs, David Pruchs – Mayor-elect of the City of Fairbanks and the leadership of both. Fairbanks Police Department and Alaska State Troopers.
A song and prayer marked the start of the rally and were soon followed by speeches from leaders of the Alaska Native community. Ginnis was one of the first to speak about the relationship between Alaska Native community leadership and law enforcement. “We are working together to resolve this issue,” Ginnis said. He also said that the government officials present “are not only supportive”.
When Ridley spoke, she talked about the coordination of tribal and law enforcement efforts thanks to the Savannah Act and independent actions by the state of Alaska and tribal organizations in Alaska. “Some of the initiatives that our group will be working on in the coming year are developing protocols and educational resources to use when a family member goes missing,” Ridley said.
The progress achieved through the coordinated work of these partner organizations was also discussed. Elected chairman Pruhs spoke about the expansion of the city site. “We have a city website with unsolved murder cases. By January 1, 2023, we will also have a missing persons zone.” Pruhs said he would make sure “every missing indigenous person is in.”
From law enforcement, Capt. Eric Spitzer, regional commander of the Alaska State Troopers, also spoke about the progress and some of the changes that have already been implemented. “I put in place our operating procedures that when someone goes missing and someone calls you to report a missing person, you go in and take a missing person questionnaire,” Spitzer said.
But not everyone in attendance felt that progress was significant or that law enforcement was doing enough. Janelle Williams was welcomed to the podium and during her time on stage spoke about her personal experience with missing indigenous people in Fairbanks. During one story, she talked about following a man who had been evicted from his property. “They went to the reservation, there was no record of that guy on my property. I couldn’t find him. He just disappeared,” he said.
All who spoke agreed that the best way to deal with this issue is to report anything they believe may be related to a missing or murdered person case. Guinness also spoke about the importance of continuing the rallies, because he keeps this issue in the center of public attention. “There really is strength in unity,” he said.
To report a tip, call (907) 451-5100 or visit the State Trooper website where you can submit an anonymous tip: https://dps.alaska.gov/AST/Tips
Copyright 2022 KTVF. All rights reserved.